When the first Life is Strange launched, I loved the concept of a narrative-based adventure game blending teenage drama with time travel. When I finished the fifth and final episode I felt a level of satisfaction, I’d been on a journey with these characters, I’d forged a bond through the choices that I’d made, or choices that I’d decided against at the last minute. I was happy with my outcome and satisfied with how I’d left the game. Little did I know I wanted more.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a prequel to what happened in the first game giving us a deeper insight into Chloe’s life. With a new developer in tow and the first game’s protagonist, Max, out of the equation, there was always that wonder as to whether the prequel would live up to the main game. How would Deck Nine create a new, gripping adventure without Max’s time travel abilities? They were a huge part of the first, could Before the Storm live without them? Short answer is yes.
Despite not being quite as focused on the Butterfly Effect in the first game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm lives faithfully up to the legacy that DONTNOD had left them. However it’s worth noting that Before the Storm feels like it’s a love letter to fans of Life is Strange rather than newcomers, and considering this is a prequel to the main game, it’s best played in succession rather than timeline order.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm begins how you’d expect with Chloe being her typical rebel self. Immediately you’ll find that the game retains the same watercolour-like 3D visuals as well as the game’s investigative nature as Chloe attempts to blag her way into an abandoned warehouse where her favourite band is playing. After being turned away for having a good, but not quite believable ID, it’s up to the player to figure out a way in.
This is when we’re introduced to a brand new mechanic, a mechanic which is incredibly suited to Chloe’s rebellious personality – the ability to argue her way out of, or into situations. This new mechanic has players choosing from several different “comeback” options which play on what the opposing character has said before it. It’s an extension of Chloe’s quick-wittedness which we saw in the first game, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
To touch a little more on the game being a love letter to fans. The game does have a bit of a slow start as players go through several areas of dialogue with familiar characters which newcomers to the series would likely be bored by. However in typical Life is Strange fashion things quickly heat up as we get more into the story, namely Chloe’s relationship with Rachel Amber – the missing girl who was integral to the story in the first game.
This isn’t to say that Life is Strange: Before the Storm is bad for newcomers to the series, but a lot of information is thrown out there which players familiar with the series would understand more than those a little less in the know. This emotional attachment to certain characters from the first game will certainly have an affect on the choices made by players too, which is really interesting.
Given the lack of time travel abilities, this game does focus a lot more on the drama and relationships in Chloe’s life from how her mother Joyce (Chloe’s mother) is dealing with Chloe’s disdain for David (her mother’s boyfriend), as well as the new relationship between Chloe and Rachel, who up until this point were pretty much strangers. And while Chloe and Rachel’s relationship may seem a little full-on at first, there seems to definitely be something deeper to how these opposites attract.
The thing about the first Life is Strange game is that despite the game’s marketing telling a tale of two people looking for a lost girl, we really didn’t find out much about how Chloe and Rachel came to be in fact Rachel Amber’s disappearance almost took a back seat to other dramas happening at Blackwell Academy. Sure, we eventually learned how much Rachel meant to Chloe, but other emotional areas in Life is Strange shone through way more than this particular pairing. Fortunately, Before the Storm provides those answers and fills in these blanks.
Despite its slow start, Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Episode 1 is a fantastic starter and already features many goosebump moments. Coming in at a little over two hours, Episode 1 is a nice introduction into the game’s new mechanics as well as providing players with their much needed Life is Strange fix. High in drama, Deck Nine have done a fantastic job and certainly live up to the legacy that DONTNOD left behind.